I have always (so far as I remember) been fascinated by those who lead a spiritual life - that is, a life in communication with a spiritual dimension that most people in modern society neglect or reject; indeed, this has perhaps been most often the kind of life I would most want for myself - covertly in the past, overtly nowadays.
But a spiritual life is not unitary nor can it be fully achieved in mortal life; rather it is an aspiration to be sought by many routes, and as an achievement something which is expected to be intermittent and quantitative (the goal being to make it more frequent and more powerful).
As a framework, the spiritual life is not about seeing or hearing spirits, but about communication. It is (minimally) about receiving communications from the spiritual world (later about interpreting, responding, and entering into two-way communications); and these communications come in many and various ways.
So here are some strategies for a more spiritual life:
1. Metaphysics. Most people cannot have a spiritual life because their assumptions - which they have chosen to live by - rule this out. Unless they change these basic assumptions as to the impossibility of a spiritual world, they are stuck in nihilistic materialism. First it must be believed that communications are possible.
2. There are indirect implications of things perceived via the senses - not just the information taken a bit at a time, but what it adds up to.
3. There is non-sensory data - inner perceptions, impressions, intuitions.
4. There are dreams, visions, trances etc which may be regarded as communications - rather than as random or pathological events (of course, they need interpreting, and it may not be - usually is not - possible to interpret any particular dream/ vision etc; but they need to be regarded as potentially spiritual communications).
5. Communications from sources typically ignored - animals, signs and signals, things that happen in nature, things found and seen or heard (an arrangement of sticks, clouds, flowing water... 'pictures in the fire' type of things).
6. Imaginations. Those that appear spontaneously, and from reflection. Purposive imagination. Ideas and pictures that seize the imagination.
7. Synchronicities ('happy coincidences') regarded as (potentially) significant.
8. The sense of a destiny or life-path - opening in front of you and validated by the discernment of your heart (not of head or gut); alternatively, the opposite sense of being on the wrong track - pushing in a direction which is thwarted, blocked by 'bad luck', failures, or lack of genuine motivation.
9. The way that one good thing leads onto another - e.g. one author you come to love leads to another such, and he to another... the idea of there being an invisible college of people working on the same thing, at a spiritual level.
10. A fascination with spiritual people, and a repulsion from prosaic, materialistic, facetious people.
11. In terms of your choices of 'passive' imagination (novels, movies and other narratives) - a preference for specifically spiritual subject matter: imaginative, mythical, magical...
12. Specific attention to the spiritual realm - by prayer, meditation,entering communion - trial and error to find situations and rituals which help with this.
13. Do not try to hold-onto spiritual experience - this cannot be done, and the attempt is counter productive. It is not intended that we should hold-onto any specific spiritual state in this mortal life. The failures and fadings are intentional and instructive.
But the experiences can come again, and more powerfully, im different ways - perhaps unexpected; and will do so if life is properly led.
[Note: This list is not, and is not intended to be, comprehensive - in particular it does not include the self-development of consciousness to perceive super-sensible realities. This is just a list of some suggestions I came up with over a cup of coffee this morning. The fact that it was possible to generate thirteen ideas so quickly, implies that there exist a multitude of strategies that might be embarked upon.]
Thank you Bruce! I was waiting in a sterile medical facility, which I tend to find somehow depressing and crushing, and your post reminded me of how wonderful reality really is, and how we can seek God anywhere and everywhere.
@Nathaniel- Excellent. Maybe *that* was exactly why I wrote it!
How important, then, are the times in our lives when some of the items on your list begin to conflict. For instance, one could easily see how you could feel very strongly a divine call to go down one path (#8), but simultaneously experience a set of synchronicities (#7) that suggest another (I can speak to that from personal experience).
So what is to be done? I appreciate that you ended the list with the letting go of old spiritual experiences when given new. Viewed in that light, perhaps when we feel conflicted spiritually we are really being given an opportunity to become the co-creators of our own reality (material and spiritual). The choice becomes ours to make, and if indeed our life is being properly led, we can be confident in that choice wherever it may lead.
@aardvark - From William Arkle I got the insight that we are given minimal guidance, because God wants most of all for us to work things out for ourselves, and learn from the experiences - including mistakes. Of course, that would not mean *contradictory* guidance! So I assume that when 'the signs' appear to be contradictory, that must be a mistake in our interpretation - or guidance making two complementary (not contradictory) points (such as "this path would be more pleasant, but this path would be more interesting").
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